Review: Megan Frazer Blakemore – The Firefly Code

The Firefly Code
Megan Frazer Blakemore

Old Harmonie is a utopian community where almost all diseases have been cured, and children at the age of 13 are granted access to their special talent. But is everything as good as the children have been taught?

I didn’t always understand Mori’s motivations. I actually wondered at the beginning if her own parents or Ilana had somehow coerced her into taking Ilana into her secret place. Or can it be excused by the power of ‘beautiful people’ to get what they want? I find it so funny how Mori can think that Ilana must be a ‘natural’ because she looks perfect. Dude! Everyone knows that natural genetics for humans doesn’t always turn out well. If someone is a ‘natural’, it’s likely that they don’t look perfect – they will resemble their parents more than Ilana does hers. Also, she should also totally blame her parents for her eyeball problems.

Looking for a YA version of this novel? Read Breaking and Burning by Danielle Rollings. Or perhaps Because you’ll never meet me. Playing around with genetics is so dangerous. We don’t even always get it right with mice – and it’s scary to think that scientists in poorly regulated countries such as China are already performing human cloning and no doubt some serious genetic engineering. It’s the ethics that always makes things complicated. How far is too far?

This novel has real potential for introducing younger readers to important genetic concepts. I’d set it at maybe age 10 up, just because the ideas behind changing people’s very genetic makeup is a hard one to grasp. They may also struggle with the idea that adults don’t always tell the truth, and that adults don’t always know everything. Being able to read the words and being able to understand the concepts are two different things.

Oh dear. This novel has made me want to read Sapient or The Ego Cluster again (PS: I did just reread Sapient – so good!). If only I had a printed copy of The Ego Cluster! I’ve just gotten a fancy copy of my PhD bound, so maybe I could do the same for it… Better ask the author (and see if he has written any more fantastic novels yet). I’m giving this 4 stars. It gets off to a really slow start, but certainly ‘heats up’ towards the end. And it has a sequel coming. Sigh. Why always with sequels? At least it mostly concluded properly.

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2017 | AU$14.99 | paperback

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Review: Deborah Ellis – Parvana

Parvana
Deborah Ellis

After her father is jailed for no reason, Parvana must take over the man’s role in her family. In a world ruled by men, can one small boy even still do anything? Or is the only power the ability for a woman to marry into a powerful family?

Generally I don’t read graphic novels. But because this one was based on a novel, it seemed like there would be a decent storyline to follow. Everyone knows I’m all about the words, not the art. Not to say the art in this was bad – it was actually nice and clear. I felt like I wanted to know more after reading/viewing this. It left me with more questions than answers. For example, why was Parvana’s friend so willing to give away his father? Why did Parvana’s mother not do anything more? How can she be so calm?

I’m not really sure what audience this is aimed at. My 8 year old female reader wouldn’t want to read about the violence, even thought the moral of the story is an amazing one. She’s scared of everything though. So perhaps a boy would enjoy it? What a sexist thing to say… Is the storyline compelling enough to keep a beginning reader reading? I’m going to say yes, because the protagonist is risking her life every day, and you don’t want her to get hurt.

I think it is unfair for me to star this. I’m giving it 4 stars, because I did actually pick it up and read it, and kept reading it, which is unusual for me.

Allen & Unwin | 24th January 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback graphic novel

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Review: Gwyneth Rees – Libby in the Middle

Libby in the Middle
Gwyneth Rees

Libby is the middle. She’s the average sister out of three, doomed to always sit in the middle of the car back seat. When she moves to a new town, Libby just wants to fit in – but will that be possible around her family’s secrets?

From the intermittent parts of this novel that I have read, Libby is a nice enough 8th grader who is just really pliable when it comes to helping her big sister out. After I read the first chapter out loud, I then missed a bunch of chapters up to chapter 8. However, it seemed like nothing had even happened in the novel! This is not a fast-paced enough novel for me.

The 8 year old reader in my household decided that this was a good novel for her to read independently. It does contain some content that I would consider inappropriate for her age group (eg. stealing, lying, getting together with a boyfriend your parents don’t approve of). However, I believe it is the first novel she has ever read that contains NO PICTURES so I’m not going to be picking on her choice too much.

This novel was deemed “My review so far – AWESOME!” by my younger reader, so I’ll be giving it 4 stars. She did say it wouldn’t be a reread, so that takes it out 5 stars. I guess I might have to come up with baby Dragon eggs or something!

Bloomsbury | 1st January 2018 | AU$12.99 | paperback

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Review: Leonie Thorpe – Archie’s Adventures

Archie’s Adventures
Leonie Thorpe

Young Archie Roach is new in town and has nothing remarkable about him. At least he was famous for a hideous bone fracture at his last school… Doomed to obscurity, Archie’s life is filled with being a pathetic Roach – until he makes friends with a local smuggler.

Archie is a fine character, I’m not really sure what else to say. My partner’s mother got me to read this book – in fact she handed me two different copies at two different times! Honestly, I wasn’t that excited by it, because I’ve sworn off reading children’s fiction now. It’s fine as a novel, I’ve just moved past it, and my (female) young reader wouldn’t be interested in it.

It’s a typical ‘reluctant reader’ boy novel – fishing and football! But then there is a bit of sailing as well. Typical team building activities with an old man and a useless hanger-on. Anyway, I shouldn’t be so disparaging. This is why I can’t read children’s fiction any more! Unless it is Isobelle Carmody, and it’s The Red Wind series. Standby for a review of the newest novel, The Ice Maze.

Three stars from me. Fine for kids, not worth it for adults. Not enough ‘meat’ here to make it a chapter book to read at bedtime to your kids.

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Review: Bren MacDibble – How to Bee

How to Bee
Bren MacDibble

The bees have been killed and now only the bravest children pollinate the fruit trees by hand. It’s hard work, and only a select few are chosen. Peony’s mother thinks that the way forward is in the city, Peony knows that her place is with the other Bees.

In a future fiction, it’s possible this is going to become common place. Bees are dying out, and despite things such as the somewhat ill informed flower planting schemes by ?cereal? companies, unless we pick up our game with killing bees with pesticides and so forth. A world without fruit would be pretty miserable.

I liked the ending a lot. I liked the whole novel, but truely, the ending was fantastic. I loved how Peony stuck to her beliefs and her family. That girl knows what is important! It’s something that more people in the world could afford to learn…

I’m not going to suggest that this is a YA novel. There’s just not enough depth for that, and it’s not a reread so that’s why it’s not getting 5 stars from me. But it carries a very important message, it improves the current knowledge of young people. I could see it as an early highschool novel, and I’d love it a lot more than some other ‘Australian classics’ they stick teenagers with.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Garth Nix – FROGKISSER!

FROGKISSER!
Garth Nix

Princess Anya always gets the responsibility of cleaning up after her sister’s messes. Unfortunately, she’s also trying to avoid her step-step father killing her off and taking the throne. When her step-step father makes yet another one of her sister’s wooers a frog, it’s up to Anya to save the day.

Who wouldn’t love a plucky heroine who really just wants to sit in her library and study sorcery? Oh wait, maybe that’s just me. No! I don’t think so. Nix has once again created a strong female character with a set of unique character flaws. She’s young enough to be appealing to young readers, but there are some in-jokes in the novel that teenagers would enjoy too.

I’m going to be handing over my copy of this novel to a 16 year old keen Garth Nix reader to see what he thinks. Is this novel particularly new and exciting? Is it adding something exciting to the genre of fairytales? Maybe is all I can say. It is certainly better than some of the other offerings out there, and if you like Garth Nix, you will probably still love this novel.

What you can’t see from the cover image is the glorious fluorescent yellow page edges. Check out my instagram to see them. It almost makes me want to put the book back-to-front on my bookshelf so that it can stand out!

I can see where this novel could easily become a series – there is reference to an overall set of Rules after all. But this novel was perfect in itself. This novel is far better than the other recent Nix novel, Newt’s Emerald, but not as good as Clariel or Goldenhand. I’m giving it 4 stars, although I would consider reading it again should a sequel appear.

Allen & Unwin | 22 February 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Steve Martin – Vet Academy

Vet Academy
Steve Martin

Do you have a child who loves animals? Do they want to be a vet? Do they just have an interest in pets in general? This book is going to be for them. With fun stickers, a poster and a model to build, this book has plenty of things to keep a child entertained.

This book covers animal health needs from pets, to zoos, to farms. It also has fun facts that will perk interest from adults as well. It could be a good book for a long car ride, because there are a range of activities to do.

The reading level in this book is probably a late primary school age, but you can also leave it with a beginning (precocious) reader who will flick through and look at the beautiful illustrations and then ask lots of questions!

This is a non-fiction, so I’m not going to be giving it any stars. But if you have a child who likes animals, or you need to give a gift to a primary school age child, this book is perfect. I can’t think of a child that wouldn’t enjoy having it, even if not all the animals take their fancy.

Allen & Unwin | 25th January 2017 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

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Review: Simon Holland – A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts
Simon Holland

Discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Dragons and griffins through to mermaids and giants, this lovingly illustrated novel will be for you.

With gorgeous illustrations and catchy little bits of story about mythical creatures, this large format children’s book is going to suit a range of fantasy enthusiasts. Perhaps you aren’t ready to read a big book of mythology? Perhaps you just want to have a taster of it? This is the book for you.

Of course, my favourite part was bound to be about dragons, and there wasn’t enough detail here for me. But for a beginner, it’s a nice introduction.

This has got to be the perfect gift for the younger someone who wants to know more about mythology past JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’ll be giving it to a 7 year old beginning reader who is simply going to love it.

Bloomsbury | 20th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold – The Song From Somewhere Else

The Song From Somewhere Else
A.F. Harrold & Levi Pinfold

Frank is bullied by Noble, who is anything but noble. When Nick, stinky, ostracised Nick, comes to her rescue, it seems unkind (despite being unwise) to not at least spend some time in his company. At his house, Frank hears music that she can’t ignore… but it comes from a most unexpected place.

29785301A fantasy twist on a bullying story, Frank is a character that you will love and want to protect in the beginning. By the end, you might wonder a bit where her spunk has come from, but I personally think it rubbed off from Nick. An innocuous missing cat can start off a range of interworld connections that lead to a better end than could have been imagined.

Oh, did I mention that it’s a beautiful hard cover that has an equally attractive dust jacket, and includes illustrations? I admit, I mainly looked at the illustrations before I got too caught up in the story to pay attention. I think I’d like to go back and look at them now though.

This is what I wanted Little Bits of Sky to be. It’s a whimsical but compelling novel that is suitable for younger readers, but has a splash of creepy just for good measure! I’m giving it 4 stars – I think it could be a great Christmas gift for someone who enjoys both fantasy and teenage fiction.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st December 2016 | AU $24.99 | Hardback

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Review: Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson – Introducing Teddy

Introducing Teddy
Jessica Watson & Dougal Macpherson

Teddy is keeping a big secret from Thomas, and Teddy is worried that Thomas won’t understand and might not like him anymore. Will Teddy be accepted as Tilly?

27158837There’s not very much I can write about a children’s novel so small. Oh, but how will I convey how impressed I am with this?

In a world where transgender individuals are gradually getting the rights they deserve, this novel is how to introduce children from a young age that some people aren’t born into the right bodies for their brains.

It’s sensitive, simple and something that younger readers (maybe grade 1 or 2) will be able to read by themselves (with adult guidance for the contents). The language is straight-forward, and the message of acceptance is clear.

With any children’s book, I’m not sure whether to recommend you buy it, or borrow it from the library as it may only get one read, depending on the age of your child. I received a paperback and a hard copy version, and I donated the hard copy one to my library. Well worth having in a collection of children’s books.

5star

Bloomsbury | June 2016 | $24.99 | Hardback

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